Unleashing extremism

2 11 2015

Unleashing extremists has long been a tactic employed by the military when dealing with political opposition. This was especially clear during the 1973-76 period when rightists associated with the palace and often led by military figures were used to create unrest and destroy opponents. This often led to murder and what are now called enforced disappearances. The role of the Red Gaur and Village Scouts in the 6 October 1976 is available in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (clicking downloads a 70 page PDF).

The Red Gaur was led by Army intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Sudsai Hasdin. For a time, under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration, Sudsai was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He and his supporters were often used to pressure opponents with the threat of more mayhem and violence.

Also in that period, rightist monks were active, including the notorious, palace-linked Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not much of a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster. More recently, the military supported the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which had rightist and royalist monk Buddha Issara as one of its leaders.

In other words, rightist extremism is not unusual in Thailand, and has long been supported by both palace and military. Such extremism is promoted by the aggressive notions of the trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy that has been promoted in society, producing xenophobia as well as ultra-royalism and ultra-nationalism.

This is a long introduction to a disturbing report at Prachatai. It states that the monk “Aphichat Promjan, chief lecturer monk at Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage” has “suggested that the government should burn a mosque for every Buddhist monk killed in the restive Deep South.”

He also urged the government to “arm the Buddhist population in the Deep South as a measure to protect ‘defenseless’ Buddhist monks and people in the area from being targeted by what he called ‘Malayu bandits’.” That aligns with a program that was implemented from about 2004 and saw the arming of Buddhists at the queen’s urging. The aligning of extreme nationalism, royal urging and rights is seen in a Wikileaks cable from 2005.

While this monk probably draws some inspiration from right-wing nationalist monks in Burma, with a dangerous military dictatorship in power in Bangkok, working hard to eliminate all political opposition, the emergence of such rightists and extremists is, sadly, to be expected. The support they receive from military and palace emboldens them.





Suicide and the palace connection

31 10 2015

Readers will be well aware of the death in military custody of Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, accused of lese majeste. Officially, we are told by the Minister responsible for “Justice” General Paiboon Khumchaya that “the case is now closed” and that Prakrom committed suicide. The public is left to ponder a lese majeste accusation that was never explained, detention in a military prison under circumstances that will never be explained and a death in military custody that will not be explained or investigated.

Yet reader may have missed the story of another “suicide” story this week, reported at The Nation: “Sitthikorn Boonchim, 44, better known as Sia Oud, was found dead in his Phitsanulok hotel room on Thursday night. There were no signs of a struggle or an assault.” He is said to have left a suicide note. A friend stated that he had met the dead man several times in the past week and that his sudden unresponsiveness was abrupt.

Sia Oud “was once a high-profile and tremendously rich amulet maker. ” The report states that his “life began to spiral out of control after several amulet buyers complained that his company wrongfully advertised that the production and distribution of amulets had been backed by the Palace since late 2007.” He was later sent to jail for 5 years for the “use and imitation of an official emblem without permission.”

These are interesting times.





Lese majeste mystery cases

20 10 2015

Yesterday we posted on the mysterious announcement of a high-level police task force to uproot more lese majeste that seem close to the palace.

It is now reported at Khaosod that police have said that they “will disclose the identities of those under investigation for flaunting ties to the Royal Family on Wednesday when they are brought to court…”.

The police add that: “We have already asked the court for arrest warrants for suspects in this case, but I don’t want to disclose the identities, number or details of their behavior…. Everything is in the case file. You will know about it when we take them for a remand, and we expect to remand them on Oct. 21.”

It is known that the criminal complaints were filed by it was “the military,” and accusing the unnamed suspects of lese majeste.

Rumors associate the pending charges with a fortune teller said to be close to the prince and with senior Crime Suppression Division police officers transferred on Sunday.

 





More household cleansing

19 10 2015

Reports in several outlets, while vague, suggest that another round of pre-succession royal household cleansing is underway.

Khaosod reports that police”have set up a taskforce to prosecute individuals who have falsely claimed to be linked to the Royal Family for personal gain, without publicly identifying any suspects.”

Late last year and early this year, there were a spate of case under this broad heading, all of which had to do with expelling Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s then wife’s family from the palace and relationships with the prince’s household (amongst all the posts at the time, see here, here, here, here, there, here and also here).

Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda, reminiscent of claims made late last year, stated that “a group of individuals have been falsely claiming [ties to] the High Institution [he means the monarchy] to commit inappropriate acts…”. He stated that these claims may amount to lese majeste. Again, last year and early this year, lese majeste charges were used to jail some 30 persons associated with former Princess Srirasmi.

The new crackdown apparently requires “a task force of 19 high-ranking police officers has been created with deputy police chief Sriwarah Rangsipramnakul in charge. Central Investigation Bureau deputy commander Thitirat Nonghanpithak was named as Sriwarah’s second-in-command for the operation.” Such high-ranking appointments suggest that this cleansing is at the top of the palace.

Prachatai reports that the first casualty in this crackdown may be well-known fortune teller Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, who was previously said to be “a close aide to the 60-year-old Crown Prince and a chief organizer of the Bike For Mom event…”.

Naewna News Online reported a rumor that Suriyan “was arrested at his house by police officers on allegations under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, lese majeste law.” Police deny the report.

Prachatai also reports that the District Chief of Wat Sing District of Chainat Province has filed a lese majeste complaint against Ratchanon B., accused of claiming to be “working for the Royal Projects with the authorisation of Princess Sirindhorn, the Crown Princess [sic.] in order to trick others to donate money on a charity scam.”

Whoever is involved and the reason for the investigations may never be explained as opaque palace politics remains the norm. Still, something unusual is underway.





The economic bosses matter

18 10 2015

When the Thai ruling elite is defined, most analysts will include the monarchy and its hangers-on – what we tend to identify as “the palace” – the military as the repressive muscle required to maintain the elite, and the mainly Sino-Thai tycoons who have cemented their position since the late 1950s, rising to economic power with the monarchy and under the protection of the military.

It is widely believed that a coterie of palace-supporting capitalists funded several of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra street movements, from the People’s Alliance for Democracy to the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Since the coup, the lumbering junta has not seemed to pay much attention to the private sector. It was more interested in royalist ideology and political repression.

The junta made the mistake of appointing failed and lazy Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula as its economic czar and the economy saw a downward spiral. It was only when it got around to appointing former Thaksin minister Somkid Jatusripitak that the business class felt that it mattered to the military.

This makes it interesting, as reported in The Nation, that the “Constitution Drafting Committee will seek opinions from the private sector before deciding whether to give an independent agency the power to check government policies…”.

Clearly, the junta wants some support for its plan to have some kind of unelected panel with the power to  veto policies disliked by the elite that might be introduced by any elected government in the future.





Memories of murderous military must be mute II

14 10 2015

The military dictatorship cannot erase memories of its institutional violence but it can try to prevent public memorialization of those murdered by the military. In an earlier post, we commented on this erasure of public memorialization for the 6 October 1976 massacre.

Khaosod reports that the military junta has tried to prevent some aspects of public events associated with a remembrance of 14 October 1973, when students led an uprising against military dictatorship that began in 1957 when the royalist general Sarit Thanarat seized power.

The military as an institution still mourns their loss of power in 1973 and they have constinued to celebrate the vicious generals who were overthrown back then. They resisted, along with a coterie of rightists and associated royalists, the public memorialization of the scores of students gunned down by the military in that uprising.

They still seek to alter memories of the events.

Royalists seek to seize the event as theirs by claims that the king opposed the generals. In fact, their is no solid historical evidence for this claim. Rather, the king and his advisers saw their regime was defeated and sought to make political capital from the events. In essence, this intervention marks the beginning of the palace’s political ascendance over the military, which lasted until the current king’s declining health, which has required the return of the military to top leadership.

As Khaosod reports, to this day, the families of those killed and injured 42 years ago have never been compensated by the state.

In fact, the “government led by Yingluck Shinawatra approved a plan in March 2012 to pay out 7,000 baht per month to immediate heirs of those injured or maimed, but the legislation was never enacted. The Yingluck administration was later ousted in the May 2014 coup d’etat, which brought the current junta to power.”

One of those who lost a family member “bitterly questioned whether there remains any point in marking the uprising when its ideal – ‘freedom from tyranny’ – was far from being achieved.” She went on to upbraid government officials – led by the princeling, M.L. Panadda Diskul – who attended the ceremony: “You are here to commemorate the event, but are you not ashamed? Many of you are the October Generation now sitting in the government. You are sitting on the pool of blood, but you don’t care about us. I have had enough.”

anti-junta

In a like-minded protest, “[m]embers of the Dao Din group, which has protested against the junta and the 2014 May military coup, were also present at the ceremony. Activists unfurled a banner denouncing former leaders of the 1973 uprising who have now shifted to supporting the military’s rule in Thailand.”

Even with government officials attending, Khaosod reports that a “company of police officers was placed around the ceremony to maintain order [sic.] at the Oct. 14 monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.”

ThaiPBS reports that the princeling Panadda tried to hijack the meaning of the event for royalists, declaring that “Thai democracy” is comprised of “four main principles, namely unity, sufficiency, no mud slinging or lying, and no corruption.” That’s the royalist mantra that underpins the repeated destruction of democratic government in Thailand. He even went so far as to describe this “democracy” with the junta’s label: “sustainable democracy.” The princeling is beneath contempt.

The video below, part one of a series at YouTube, is a documentary made a few years ago at Thammasat University, bringing together what remains of the materials of the time. The short note under the video describes 14 October as one of Thailand’s “darkest moments.” That refers to the use of state force to attempt to put down the student-led revolt. At the same time, 14 October is remembered as a rising against military dictatorship that sought to establish a democratic Thailand. The struggle continues:





Fearing Thaksin III

12 10 2015

Back in July, PPT posted on the military dictatorship’s fear of Thaksin Shinawatra. In one post we noted that Thaksin has been outside Thailand, in self-imposed exile, since 2008. Yet the major threat to Thailand’s ruling elite and its military is none other than the man in Dubai. In another post, we noted ongoing purges of those considered “Thaksinites.” Just a couple of days ago, we posted on General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s blowup and rant over Thaksin.Thaksin

Previous bouts of fretting and fear have seen attacks on political opponents, legal action against Yingluck Shinawatra and other members of the Shinawatra clan.

This round of trembling from the military gang appears to have resulted in more legal maneuvering against Thaksin himself. The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court has “issued a warrant for the arrest of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he failed to show up for the first hearing in a defamation case filed against him by the army.”

This is the case where Thaksin accurately assessed the scheming of the palace and military to oust Yingluck.

The Office of the Judge-Advocate of the Army filed a complaint, apparently uncomprehending that Thaksin could criticize the military: “Thaksin is accused of defaming the army during interviews in South Korea from May 19-22…. In his interviews Thaksin falsely accused the army, portraying it as a ‘dreadful institution’ and a danger to the nation, according to the lawsuit.”

As far as PPT can tell, Thaksin was correct. He might have added that it is a corrupt and murderous gang.

The court accepted the lawsuit and when Thaksin’s lawyer told the court “his client could not be present since he is in political exile, residing in a foreign country,” the court issued a warrant. The courts and the military junta work hand-in-hand in these punishments that are meant to damage Thaksin and his supporters. In fact, it serves to demonstrate double standards and the military’s fear.








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